The New Barbarians: A Declaration of Poetic Disobedience from the New Border, by Guillermo Gómez-Peña

Guillermo Gómez-Peña


1. To the Masterminds of Paranoid Nationalism

I say, we say:

‘We,’ the Other people

We, the migrants, exiles, nomads & wetbacks

in permanent process of voluntary deportation

We, the transient orphans of dying nation-states

la otra America; l’autre Europe

We, the citizens of the outer limits and crevasses

of ‘Western civilization’

We, who have no government;

no flag or national anthem

We, the New Barbarians

We, in constant flux,

from Patagonia to Alaska,

from Juarez to Ramalla,

todos somos mojados

We, the seventh generation, the fourth world, the third country

We millions abound,

defying your fraudulent polls & statistics

We continue to talk back & make art

[Shamanic tongues]

2. To those up there who make dangerous decisions for mankind

I say, we say:

We, the homeless, faceless vatos aquellos

in the great American metropolis

little Mexico, little Cambodia, little purgatory

We, the West Bank & Gaza strip of Gringolandia

We, the unemployed & subemployed who work so pinche hard

so you don’t have to work that much

We, whose taxes send your CEOs & armies

on vacation to the South

We, evicted from your gardens & beaches

We, fingerprinted, imprisoned, under surveillance

We, within your system, without your mercy

We, without health or car insurance,

without bank accounts & credit cards,

We, scared shitless at ground level,

but only at ground level

like a pack of hungry wolves

exploring the ruins of an empty mall

we continue to be… together

[Shamanic tongues]

3. To the lords of fear and intolerance

I say, we say:

We, mud people, snake people, tar people

We, bohemians walking on millennial thin ice

Our bodies pierced, tattooed, martyred, scarred

Our skin covered with hieroglyphs & flaming questions

We, the witches who transform trash into wearable art

We, Living Museum of Modern Oddities & Sacred Monsters

We, vatos cromados y chucas neo-barrocas

We, indomitable drag queens, transcendental putas

waiting for love and better conditions in the shade

We, bad boy & bad girls over 50

We, lusting for otherness

We, todos somos putos

We, ‘subject matter’ of fringe documentaries

We, the Hollywood refuseniks,

the greaser bandits & holy outlaws

of advanced Capitalism

We, without guns, without Bibles

We, who never pray to the police or to the army

We, who never kissed the hand of a bishop or a curator

We, who barter and exchange favors & talismans

We, who still believe in community, another community,

a much stranger and wider community

We, community of illness, madness & dissent

community of horny angels & tender demons

We, scotch, mescal and bleeding saliva

We, frail and defiant; permanently outraged but always tender

We shape your desire while you contract our services

to postpone the real discussion

We are waiting, still waiting for you to go to sleep

so, we can continue the party

[Shamanic tongues]

4. To the Lords of Censorship

I say, we say:

We, the artists & intellectuals who still don’t wish to comply

We, who talk back in rarefied symbols & metaphors

against the corruption of formalized religion & art

We, critical brain mass

spoken word profética, sintética

We, bastard children of two humongous nuns:

‘Heterodoxia’ e ‘Iconoclastia’

We, the urban monks who pray in tongues & rap in Esperanto

We, who put on masks, penachos & wigs to shout

‘you just can’t take my art away’

We, who dance against the rhythms of the times

We, who suddenly freeze!


Standing still in our underwear

right in the center of the stage

with the words carved on our chests:

‘Performance artist: will bleed for food’

‘Obsessive artist: will die for one idea’

We, critical brain mass

fuga inminente de cerebros y hormonas

spoken word profética, sintética

We continue to talk back… talk back… talk back…

[Shamanic tongues]

5. To those who are as afraid of us as we are of them

I say, we say:

We, who have no name whatsoever in the news

We, edited out, pixelated, censored, postponed

We, beyond the video frame, behind the caution tape

We, tabloid subject matter par excellence

We, involuntary actors of ‘The Best of Cops’

eternally stalking mythical blonds in the parking lot,

We, mistaken identities in your computer memory

We, generic brown & black males who fit all

taxonomic descriptions

We, black & brown nude bodies in the morgue,

taxidermied bodies in the Museum of Mankind

We, prime targets of ethnic profiling & capital punishment

We, one strike & we’re out

We, prisoners of consciousness without a trial

We, of the turban, burka, sombrero, bandana, leather pants

We surround your neon architecture

While you call the Office of ‘Homeland Security’


Yes, we are equally scared of one another

[Shamanic tongues]

6. To the share-holders of mono-culture

I say, we say:

We, Americans with foreign accents & purple tongues

We, bilingual, polylingual, cunnilingual,

We, los otros del mas allá

del otro lado de la línea y el puente

We, lingua poluta et disoluta,

rapeando border mystery; a broader history

We, mistranslated señorita, eternally mispronounced

We, lost and found in the translation

lost & found between the layers of my words

We, interracial lovers,

children of interracial lovers, ad infinitum

We, Americans in the largest sense of the term

(from the many other Americas)

We, from Patagonia to Alaska

From Sao Paolo to New York

We, in cahoots with the original Americans

who speak hundreds of beautiful languages

incomprehensible to you

We [Shamanic tongues]

We, in cahoots with dozens of millions of displaced

Latinos, Arabs, blacks & Asians

who live so far away from their land

We, trapped between ICE and organized crime

[Shamanic tongues]

We all speak in unison therefore you cease to be

even if only for a moment

behind the curtain of language

I am, US, you sir, no ser

Nosotros seremos

Nosotros, we stand

not united

We, matriots not patriots

& when we talk back,

you become tongue-tied pendejos

[Shamanic tongues]

the people you call ‘aliens’

are the original inhabitants of this earth

7. To the masters and apologists of war

I say, we say:

We, matriots not patriots again

We, rebels, not mercenaries like you

We, labeled ‘extremists’ for merely disagreeing with you

We, caught in the crossfire,

between Christian fear & Muslim rage,

We, a thinking majority against unilateral stupidity

against preemptive strikes & premature ejaculation

We reject your arms sales & oil deals

We distrust your orange alert & your white privilege

We oppose the Patriot Act patrioticamente hablando

the largest surveillance system ever,

the biggest prison complex to date

We, whose opinions are never on the front page

of your morning paper

We, who are never polled by Fox News

who never get to debate those TV pundits

We did not vote for you,

do not support your wars,

do not believe in your violent gods

do not respect your immigration laws

Standing scared but firm

We demand your total, TOTAL withdrawal

from our minds and bodies ipso facto

[Shamanic tongues]

And when we speak in tongues, you disappear

8. Finale:

[Finally facing/addressing the audience]

We, baaaad poetry, baaad art!

We, techno-pirates, Region 4

We, the shamans exorcising Enron

los brujos against Microsoft

poetas solitarios contra Wal-Mart

We, dervishes under the arches of McDonalds

radical clowns confronting the global police

immigrant teens torching the cars of the wealthy

We, los indignados y desterrados

El Movimiento Sin Tierra

Paracaidistas en Wall Street

The Other ‘99%’

We, the ghosts of the past

in cahoots with the future warriors

in cahoots with all innocent civilians killed

on both sides of the useless War on Terror

We, nosotros, going crazy to remain sane

literally dying for new ideas

performing against all odds

dancing on the edge of a crater

We, witnesses & willing victims of the End of Empire

We, Western World imploding disfunctionalia

history’s final chapter… colapso total!

Tabula Rasa; take 2:

We, mapping,

mapping the immediate future

so you and I can walk on it

without falling inside the great faults of history.

You & I,

verbally walking together;

you & I,

ephemeral community;

you & I,

a tiny little nation-state;

you & I,

a one-hour-long utopia

titled ‘You & I,’

alone on stage,

fighting together

the World Bank, the WTO & the G-8;

fighting avant-garde desire & the Patriot Act;

tu y yo, juntitos, bien abrazados,

fucking suavecito

fighting isolation & isolationism….

And art is our battlefield,

que otra?

And if we fall

we are caught in mid-air by a total stranger.

Born in 1955 and raised in Mexico City, Gómez-Peña came to the US in 1978. His work, which includes performance art, video, audio, installations, poetry, journalism, and cultural theory, explores cross-cultural issues, immigration, the politics of language, “extreme culture” and new technologies in the era of globalization. A MacArthur fellow, he is a regular contributor to the national radio news magazine All Things Considered (National Public Radio), a writer for newspapers and magazines in the U.S. and Mexico, and a contributing editor to The Drama Review (MIT). Visit Gómez-Peña at


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